Law updates boating requirements

Published 8:31 pm Saturday, July 7, 2012

A new law in Virginia expands the list of people who are required to take boating safety courses before heading out in a motorized boat.

The law requires all operators of personal watercraft, and motorboat operators 30 and younger who operate boats with motors of 10 horsepower or more, to have completed a boating safety education course and carry such proof with them while operating the vessel.

Virginia requires those boaters to take a boating safety education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and accepted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The requirement has been phased-in by age group and category since 2009 and will continue to be phased-in over the next several years.


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The old law applied the boating safety course requirement to personal watercraft operators 50 and younger and to those 20 and younger who operated boats with motors of 10 horsepower or more.

Boaters can take a classroom course, an Internet course or a challenge exam to meet the requirement. Classroom courses are taught by volunteer instructors throughout the state. There are several internet courses that are accepted by the VDGIF. Once you take a course, carry your course completion certificate or wallet card with you while operating a PWC or motorboat.

For boaters who have taken a boating safety course in the past, the optional Lifetime Virginia Boating Safety Education Card is available. This durable, driver’s-license-styled card is available for a fee of $10. You can get an application on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website,

To learn more about boating laws in Virginia, and about boating safety education courses, visit the “Boating” link on the department’s website.